The Quick-Step Floors sprinter spent the majority 167.5km stage that began and ended in downtown Sacramento tucked safely in the peloton.
The field brought back a four-man breakaway containing Floris Gerts (BMC), Jonno Clarke (UnitedHealthcare), Charles Planet (Novo Nordisk) and Ben Wolfe of Jelly Belly-Maxxis, with about 25km to go to set the stage for the sprinters.
Team Sky went to the front on the first of three circuits in downtown Sacremento, but it was Quick-Step Floors who made the decisive move on the final lap with Fabio Sabatini providing the slingshot for Kittel.
"The stage was nice, we had great weather and some really fantastic fans who gave us a warm welcome," Kittel said.
"It’s an excellent start to the race for our team, which gives us even more confidence and motivation for next week. The guys were strong throughout the day and rode intelligently, I’m very proud of them, so chapeau for an impeccable job."
The second stage takes the peloton 143km from Modesto to San Jose.